Is Geothermal Energy a Practical Alternative to Fossils Yet?

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy has enormous resources that are expected to be larger than oil, coal, uranium, and natural gas combined. There have been many surveys done to resolve how much useful energy is available, and the consensus seems to confirm that there are enough resources to last somewhere between 400,000 and 1,000,000 years, which is why it has been classified as a renewable and limitless form of energy,

The most popular usage found for geothermal energy is to power the dynamos and generators for electricity in power plants. The determining factor for most companies when building any new power plant is the cost of running the plant.

A cost estimate has been done between new locations intended to use geothermal energy and new facilities designed to use fossil fuels.

It has been found out that the cost of operating the geothermal plant is very competitive (4 to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour) to that of the plant that utilizes fossil fuel to warrant the turbines. The significant difference between the two is that the spark that fossil fuel gives off is full of pollutants, which is one of our primary health concerns, while geothermal energy has no flame, so the safety and health concerns are not there.

The only nation to benefit from geothermal energy is Iceland. No surprise here; it just seems rather natural with so many strange geothermal springs on the island and all the active volcanic activity they have, one might say that Iceland is one giant geothermal spring. Presently, about 25% of Iceland’s power comes from geothermal energy, and they are aiming to be the first nation to be 100% free of any dependence on fossil fuels for electricity.

To be able to use geothermal practically, you must first find an active hydrothermal site commonly called a geothermal spring. Once you have found a good location, then you begin drilling down to determine if there is sufficient hydrothermal activity. How deep you have to drill is uncertain; normally, for every 328 feet (100 meters) you go into the earth’s crust, the rocks’ temperature will increase by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). Once a geothermal spring has been located, the most common application is to use the power to drive electricity turbines.

The bulk of the geothermal springs are situated along the major plate boundaries, where most earthquakes and volcanic activities are concentrated. The most active areas have been found along the “Ring of Fire,” which covers the Pacific ocean. A few of the western states that are adjacent to the pacific rim have been utilizing some geothermal energy to supplement their energy needs; California gets about 5.46% of its electricity from geothermal energy. In comparison, Nevada is around 10% and Utah is at about 7%.

There are a couple of restraining factors that will keep geothermal energy from being extensively used. One aspect is that geothermal springs are found only in confined areas, and the other is being able to keep the power plant attached to the hot spots. The Yellowstone area in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, has many geothermal springs sites. However, these springs are always advancing along with the tectonic plate, eliminating the feasibility of building power plants there since the power source will also be moving.

It seems with today’s prevailing technology, with Iceland being the exception, geothermal energy, even with its comprehensive resource, will always be a restricted form of clean energy when compared to wind and solar power.

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